10 ways to evolve offline businesses & community gatherings for the future
Key takeaways from our first-ever virtual round table that saw a bunch of diverse entrepreneurs, whose work involves creating, curating and bringing people offline, discuss what lies ahead in the post-Covid world

Many of you know Dysco because of our events—that's where you've met us and gotten to know our community. So instead of quickly transitioning our offline gatherings into digital ones we started having conversations with you on this very subject. Our biggest concern through put has been the question of whether we would be able to provide the same kind of value or recreate the vibe that you identify as characteristically Dysco. And if we couldn't mimic those networking opportunities and allow people to informally get to know each other, then what would be the purpose of our virtual events?

At our virtual round table we sought answers to these questions and a whole lot more led by those navigating the future of festivals, social gatherings, and events, and one of their main concerns is about the financial and professional wellbeing of those in their respective communities. The full list of speakers is listed here, and you can scroll to the bottom of the article to learn more about each of them.

If you were present at the round table, it was lovely having you there. Watch this space for more event-specific announcements. If you wish to reach out to any of the speakers to continue the conversation, the links above will take you to their respective Dysco profiles. Click on their intention buttons to start a conversation (we trust you know that by now!)

For those that couldn’t make it, you can watch the whole roundtable here:

And here are our biggest takeaways from the session which hint at the directions in which the events and community gatherings space will evolve and grow in the coming months and years:

1. Creating a strong sense of community is critical.

It was tough to do offline, but even harder online. It goes beyond the space and the design, but more about getting people to interact with each other and support each other. Those who hope to build meaningful communities will need to think beyond followers, customers, clients, and spatial elements to unearth the true sense of support and sharing that underlie communities. “Coworking is as much about the people as it is about the space,” said Marlies Bloemendaal. Mallika Parekh agreed saying, “What people now need is a sense of community— so when we are transitioning into the online space we need to work on building a community.”

2. Identifying and translating the core value proposition of offline events into the online space.

Mallika used the example of the Kohler effect which shows that people perform better when surrounded by each other; that healthy competition leads to more productivity or better results. Is it possible to replicate that effect online? If yes, how do we do it? On a similar note, Khrisha reflected on the importance of audience interactions and the intimacy of Dysco events and how that can be translated online. If some elements cannot be taken forward online, then considering what to replace these with and how to ensure a hybrid model works for your audience.

3. Propelling ourselves forward to an even greater digital revolution.

We've already leveraged technology and digital, but we will now need to take this even more, keeping in mind existing skills and resources. This accelerated digital propulsion is one which presents itself with even greater opportunities, but requires more adaptability especially to change. Archana Walavalkar spoke of Stylecracker already having a digital model, but needing to take that many steps further now. “Are we willing to look at this transition as an opportunity for blue sky thinking: Are we willing to let go of what was?,” she asked.

Archana Walavalkar speaking at Beta & Beyond- A Dysco event at the Marangoni Mumbai campus

4. Creating a hybrid or omni-channel model that combines the best of online and offline characteristics.

Having said that, it is essential to calibrate what this will exactly look like on ground. “We need to think about what part goes online, what part stays offline and how do you make the online experience more immersive,” said Sanna Vohra quoting live streaming of small-audience weddings, now being requested extensively, as an example. Offline is most certainly not going away altogether, and it's important to consider which elements can come back and how they'll be different once the pandemic peters out.

5. Rethinking scale when it comes to events and community gatherings.

It’s never been more critical to answer questions like ‘who is our audience’ in a creative manner. Mallika likes to think of it as pivoting in challenging times. “When faced with the challenges of the lockdown Physique 57 instead of cutting back decided to focus on reach to become Physique 57 India from Physique 57 Mumbai overnight,” she said. Sanna spoke about occupying a larger share of the pie. “Earlier we used to do two of the ten things now we need to ask ourselves how can we do six out of the ten things?”

6. Using this opportunity to slow down and go deeper.

It’s easy to get carried away in the momentum but it’s important to focus on what the community really wants. This also makes better financial sense. Marlies spoke of the importance of focusing on quality over quantity. Making fewer members much happier is more realistic than aiming for more scale and breadth. Sarah Chawla addressed the elephant in the room with, “There’s only so much that you can offer for free. So we need to think about how to present something that has intention and meaning?”

Dysco's event Vocation Redefined in progress at the beautiful Ministry of New coworking space.

7. Using this time to build goodwill, have meaningful conversations and share uplifting content while staying true to your brand.

From a communications perspective, Everything doesn’t have to result in a ‘sale’ or have financial reward. Kaveri Acharya brought up examples of how people in the art and media world are doing exactly this, and choosing to buy art because it means actually supporting artists when they need it most. Mallika cautioned against ‘trying to be everything to everyone,’ and focusing on activities that match your core values. Archana suggested that it’s important to go beyond the transactional and present information using newer angle, by adapting to changing customer preferences.

8. Looking inwards and building an identity outside of work.

Whether you are entrepreneur, an employee or freelancer working in this space, it's important to not put all eggs in one basket. Diversify your interests and skillset, ask questions about why you are doing what you’re doing, and let the answers come from the most genuine place inside you. “Your work will certainly benefit from it, as will other areas of your life,” says Sarah. With everything falling back on social media and WFH, the struggle to balance work and life can get real.

9. Collaboration over competition is the need of the hour.

Co-creating with other platforms, creators and businesses that work parallel to ours could reap huge dividends in the future. Kaveri brought up the possibility of coming together to build hybrid tools for instance. “We can pool resources together as these can be expensive to build. And when we come out of this it will be our collective wealth,” she said. Khrisha spoke of how entrepreneurs can share information about their experiments, thus allowing others' to learn from others' mistakes. If communities can collaborate regularly and meaningfully, then learning and growth across the group can happen more rapidly and at a lesser cost.

Facilitating collaboration between creators, brands and businesses is at the heart of Dysco events

10. This is the time to take people along with us.

It's time to take the community along, take our employees along, take collaborators and contributors along and take our customers along. We’ll be slow to reap financial benefits as we rebuild but it’s important that we pass these along the food chain. Our businesses can never be all head—they need heart and heart is brought by the people who make the business what it is.


If you'd like to know more or chat about these learnings with the speakers, you can find them all on Dysco. You can refer to the bios below to know more about who they are and what they do.

Marlies Bloemendaal is originally a Dutch designer and has been based in Mumbai since 2008. Marlies runs a boutique co-working space called Ministry of New located in a heritage building in Fort, which was listed in a Forbes list of the most beautiful co-working spaces in the world

Sarah Chawla is the cofounder of Wild City, which is India’s premier online music publication, events platform and a whole lot more. Wild City co-founded one of the most exciting and original contemporary music and arts festivals in the country—Magnetic Fields which happens every year over three days at a luxury 17th century palace turned hotel bang in the middle of a desert in Alsisar, Rajasthan.

Sanna Vohra is the founder and CEO of the Wedding Brigade which is a one stop shop— an online portal for everything to do with the Big Fat Indian wedding which can have so many interpretations and be different things to different people. Sanna, who has worked in advertising and investment banking in the past, was featured in the coveted Forbes 30-under-30 retail and e-commerce list in 2018.

Archana Walavalkar is a very well known name in the fashion industry. Archana is one of the cofounders of StyleCracker, India’s foremost fashion-tech platform that has made personal styling accessible to literally anyone and everyone. Archana has worked as a celebrity stylist for over 14 years styling some of Bollywood’s finest actors and was also part of the founding team of Vogue India and has also led innumerable fashion campaigns and editorials.

Mallika Parekh is a real game changer in the health and fitness space. She is the exclusive owner of New York’s revolutionary and very-trendy Physique 57 workout to India. Celebrities and prominent public figures are known to swear by this 57-minute barre-based method. Prior to that she founded Valiance Healthcare a venture specialising in preventative healthcare— a pursuit she remains passionate about.

Kaveri Acharya is a Mumbai-based communications consultant specialising in art and culture. Kaveri has worked in the art world for close to a decade starting as a gallery assistant at some of the top modern and contemporary art galleries and ultimately finding her niche in communication and marketing. Kaveri's approach to communication involves clever, approachable storytelling and connecting the dots.

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